Must Read Monday: The Book Whisperer

Monday, August 5, 2013
Are you in denial that summer is winding down? Do you turn the other way when you encounter an aisle stuffed with school supplies?  Well, a great way to prolong summer is to grab another summer read!  

I recently finished The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller.  This has been on my to-read list for over a year, and now that I've devoured it, I'm kicking myself for not reading it sooner. 
This post is mostly for accountability. You know when you were a kid, and you came back from church camp all fired up, ready to take on the world? That's kinda where that I am after this read.  Miller's classroom is filled with student choice, autonomy and ample time for student reading. It is a thing of beauty.  It is terrifying. This classroom environment means giving up teacher control and placing lots of trust in student hands.  

I'm going to let the book do the talking.

The Philosophy:
  • The fact that educators coined the terms real reading, authentic reading, and independent reading to differentiate what readers do in school from what readers do in life is part of the problem.  Why does it have to be different?  Why is the goal of reading instruction disconnected from reading in the rest of the student's life? (4)
  • Are we teaching books or teaching readers? (85)
  • We have created a culture of reading poverty in which a vicious cycle of aliteracy has the potential to devolve into illiteracy for many students (107). Whoa!  Type that up and put it on a poster!!
  • The purpose of school should not be to prepare students for more school.  We should be seeking to have fully engaged students now (166).

The Practice:
  • Through conferences and reading response entries, I assess whether students are enjoying their books and comprehending them (95). This conversation takes place in their reader's notebook.  (Notebook...holla!) Miller's notebooks have four major sections: tally list, reading list, books-to-read list, and response entries.
  • I would rather expose my students to fifteen different texts to meet my instructional goals than beat one book into the ground, expecting it to demonstrate a multitude of literary concepts (127). Cough...shared reading...cough.  Sorry, I couldn't help myself!
  • I ask students to show their understanding of the literary elements that I have taught them in class by delving into their own books.  Students cannot do this effectively if they have not read and comprehended the book (133).
The thing I love the most about this book is that it provides concrete suggestions, classroom routines, and resources. After reading, I feel prepared to implement a similar model in my own classroom.  I'm teaching students who will be taking STAAR for the 6th time.  I know what we've put into practice, and I know the yield of those practices.  We've got to reach these students on a fundamental level.  Students will read if we give them the books, the time, and the enthusiastic encouragement to do so (177).

This is an excellent, quick read.  And you want to hurry so that you'll be ready for Miller's second book, Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits, which is released in November.

Let's get reading!

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